The Century Walk Corporation

Naperville Sun: Design for a Laughing Lincoln statue in Naperville's Central Park approved

May 1, 2018 — Source: Naperville Sun — Author: Erin Hegarty

A statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting on a bench laughing and slapping his knee is one step closer to coming to Naperville’s Central Park.

Naperville Century Walk last week approved an 18-inch maquette of the statue designed by David Alan Clark, a Wyoming artist. The statue will be the Century Walk’s 50th piece of art, and is expected to be finished in time to be unveiled for Illinois’ 200th birthday in December.

Clark has designed and sculpted public art in other states, including Nebraska,Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming, according to his website.

The jovial young Lincoln will be seated on a foundation made from local limestone, representative of the first DuPage County Courthouse, which once sat on land just east of Washington Street. Lincoln’s hand will be on a deed, meant to symbolize the act of the county deeding the park’s 3.8 acres to Naperville for public use when the county seat moved to Wheaton in 1868.

Laughing Lincoln is a “celebration of youth, public service, the rule of law, laughter and hope,” Mary Lou Wehrli said. “It is in honor of all who maintain a sense of humor through difficult times.”

The idea to bring a life-size Lincoln to Central Park, just east of Washington Street in downtown Naperville, came from Mary Lou Wehrli’s father and former City Councilman Don Wehrli, who died in May 2015. Wehrli regularly walked through Central Park while growing up in Naperville, and “passionately defended” the park whenever it was threatened with development or parking spaces, his daughter said.

Joe Naper, Naperville’s founder, served alongside Lincoln in the Illinois General Assembly from 1837 through 1841. Whether Naper and Lincoln actually ever collaborated on getting legislation passed is a matter of local lore, but Samuel Wheeler, Illinois state historian, confirmed last week the nation’s 16th president did have a sense of humor.

“Abraham Lincoln certainly was known as a good storyteller, and he had a great sense of humor consistently throughout his life, whether as a teenager in southern Indiana, a young man in New Salem and all the way through his time as president,” Wheeler said. “People certainly could remark on him as a storyteller and that he was hilarious to be around.”

The limestone cornerstone the statue will be placed on will be installed during a jubilee planned for Sept. 30 in Central Park, and the Century Walk is planning to unveil the completed statue after a fundraising gala Dec. 2 — one day before Illinois’ bicentennial.



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